Multiple Fellowships Further Solidify Upper Midwest as Social Entrepreneurship Leader
Oct 31, 2018

MINNEAPOLIS, September 6, 2018 – Breaking down information silos standing between socioeconomically disadvantaged students and collegiate financial aid; raising dollars and hope for victims of domestic abuse through frozen cookie dough; providing natural skincare products at an affordable price; a global venture capital firm providing funding, technical assistance and business planning services to LGBTQ entrepreneurs; a unique reservation tool that makes it easier for restaurateurs and small business owners to give back and strengthen their local communities. These are the solutions to social issues proposed by the very first cohort of FINNOVATION Fellows.

The unique and innovative ideas listed above comprise the aspirations of the inaugural class of the FINNOVATION Fellowship Program for impact entrepreneurs. Chosen from hundreds of applicants, the fellowships were awarded by a judging panel of educational, business and foundation leaders based on eight selection criteria: entrepreneurial spirit, leadership, resilience, financial stability, passion, growth potential, social impact, and innovation.

Housed in the recently established 13,000-square foot FINNOVATION Lab and Impact Hub MSP collaboration space located on the fourth floor of the FINNEGANS House (817 5th Ave S. Minneapolis 55404), the fellowship is a nine-month incubator and professional development program to support emerging leaders.

It will benefit those who are ready to turn their ideas into a sustainable enterprise and simply need a runway of support. The five Fellows selected for the initial cohort, which will run September 2018 through May 2019, receive $50,000 in living support, as well as a health insurance stipend, free co-working space, a tailored curriculum and one-on-one mentorship.

The Fellowship Program is the brainchild of FINNEGANS Beer Founder Jacquie Berglund, who has been guiding and encouraging social entrepreneurs for decades but recognized the need to create a more structured set of programming. This robust fellowship now comes with a professional curriculum and the resources to allow dedicated focus for innovative idea-stage impact entrepreneurs. The curriculum closely maps to Berglund’s FINNEGANS road map with programming covering four pillars: Leadership Development, Causes and Context of a Social Problem, Human-Centered Design, and Business Planning.

“We are very excited to provide financial assistance, business services and mentorship to this next generation of impact entrepreneurs,” said Jacquie Berglund, Founder of the FINNOVATION Lab. “Social entrepreneurship is still a young industry, and we’re thrilled to be able to support innovators who want to make a social impact, but lack the experience, tools, and resources to do so.”

FINNOVATION Fellowship: First Class

Junita L. Flowers – Frozen Cookie Dough to Increase Hope, Awareness and Funding for Domestic Abuse Victims

Self-described “Hope Muncher-in-Chief,” Junita Flowers is on a mission to spread a message of hope, inspiring women to live their best lives.  Junita believes the FINNOVATION Fellowship will allow her to access leadership training opportunities, strengthen her confidence as a business owner and make meaningful connections, allowing her to maximize her community support impact both locally and nationally.

 Michelle Tran Maryns – Reservation Tool to Increase Small-Business and Customer Community Impact

Before founding her own social venture, Michelle Tran Maryns helped entrepreneurs grow and scale their businesses as the Chief of Strategic Initiatives at Metropolitan Economic Development Assoc.(MEDA). Prior to MEDA, she developed leadership experience in the public, private, and nonprofit sectors through her work at the U.S. Department of State, the U.S. Department of Justice, Rêve Consulting, and the American Academy of Neurology. Michelle applied to the fellowship program to leverage her experience working in these different sectors to create a social venture that fosters collaboration and increases the positive community impact. Being selected as a FINNOVATION Fellow means a lot to Michelle because this is the first social enterprise that she has started, and she is excited to learn more from the FINNOVATION Lab community.

Mimi Aboubaker – Connecting Low-Income Students to Needed Financial Resources and Support

Mimi Aboubaker is the founder and CEO of TUSA, a fintech venture focused on improving educational outcomes of socioeconomically disadvantaged students. TUSA provides scholarship and financial aid providers and philanthropists with a vehicle to remove cost barriers to higher education for low-and-middle-income students and to deploy education capital that has a quantifiable and measurable reduction to the student loan debt we often discuss but haven’t found a methodical way to tackle. Prior to the venture, Mimi worked in investment banking at Goldman Sachs, merchant banking at Morgan Stanley, and corporate development at Prada Group. Her experience as a first-generation American and college student who independently navigated the college and financial aid processes motivates her work in the educational equity space and passion for the venture. Mimi is excited about leveraging the resources and expertise of mentors and advisors through the FINNOVATION Lab Fellowship program.

Nicholas Alm – Supporting LGBTQ Entrepreneurs

Nicholas Alm was a serious violinist who originally wanted to be a music teacher but due to societal pressure opted for business school. In 2016, he co-founded The University of Minnesota Carlson School of Management’s first undergraduate LGBTQ organization, just months before beginning the blueprints for what would become Mossier, an organization dedicated to serving LGBTQ entrepreneurs. He serves on the board of directors for the Minnesota International NGO Network, a group focused on growing Minnesota’s ecosystem of international development practitioners. Nicholas feels the extraordinary amount of talent and expertise within the FINNOVATION community is unmatched and having a community of support among the other FINNOVATION Fellows will assist his development as an entrepreneur and add excitement.

Precious Drew – Natural and Affordable Skin Care Solutions through Upcycling

Precious Drew is a recent graduate from the College of Saint Benedict/Saint John’s University where she received her Bachelor of Arts in Global Business with a focus in entrepreneurship. Precious dedicated her junior and senior year to designing and implementing a business providing natural skin care products through the practice of upcycling in the Donald McNeely Center for Entrepreneurship’s Entrepreneur Scholars program. Precious finds great value in being a member of a cohort setting as members can offer constructive feedback, fresh ideas, and new perspectives for the business. No longer shielded by the title of “student,” Precious believes professional mentorship, especially with respect to legal issues, in conjunction with the advice and perspective offered from her fellow FINNOVATION Fellowship cohort members, is the next step for her.

FINNOVATION Fellowship Partners and Support

The FINNOVATION Fellowship application period opened in late May and closed on July 15. The program was made possible through the generous support of the Bush Foundation, known for its commitment to innovation and creative problem solving. In supporting the fellowship program, the Bush Foundation is helping early stage creators build sustainable social businesses able to generate positive change and impact across the region.

The FINNOVATION Lab is operated as part of a unique collaboration with Impact Hub MSP, which offers coworking, shared and dedicated workspaces, community-led workshops, and facilitates peer-to-peer learning that brings together a community of entrepreneurs, innovators, and non-profit professionals to take collaborative action and drive positive change across the Twin Cities and beyond.

More details about the FINNOVATION Fellowship are available at


The FINNOVATION Lab’s mission is to create a space for intentional and constant cross-pollination of social entrepreneurship concepts, ideas and networks. The organization empowers and provides system change leaders with venture service support and access to capital increasing and accelerating their impact. For more information, visit

Posted by Katrina Becker on Oct 31, 2018

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